Mali's coup leader responded to the threat of sanctions by saying he plans to hold elections and rapidly return the country to its established order but gave no timetable, falling short of demands by West African countries. Mali's neighbours gave the captain a 72-hour deadline to hand power back to civilians or else face severe consequences, including the closing of borders to the landlocked nation and the freezing of the country's account at the regional central bank.

If the measures go into effect on Sunday, they will be among the toughest imposed on a state in West Africa, where coups are still a near-yearly occurrence.

Amid the turmoil, Tuareg rebels in the north pushed into the strategic town of Kidal, according to Lt. Samba Timbo, the chief of security for junta leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo. Kidal, a garrison town, is a major prize for the Tuareg separatists who launched a rebellion in January with the aim of carving out a homeland for themselves in the desolate north.

Coup leader's plea

In the capital of Bamako, Capt. Sanogo emerged for the first time since the threat the sanctions were announced, telling reporters on Friday that he “understands” the position of the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. At the same time, he said he wanted ECOWAS “to deepen their analysis of the situation in Mali. We ask them to analyze the reasons that led to this coup.”

Capt. Sanogo grabbed power on March 21 after a mutiny at the military camp where he is based around 10 km from the presidential palace. The mutiny was sparked over the ill-treatment of soldiers sent to fight the nascent rebellion in the north. Troops have been sent without enough equipment, and the junta claims many were executed by the Tuareg mercenaries.

Capt. Sanogo asked the regional body to support him, saying the junta seized control with the plan of “holding a rapid process of normalisation, organising free and transparent elections and a rapid restoration of the state.” He omitted to make clear his timeline, even as the threat of sanctions loom.

In downtown Bamako, lines 50-people deep were forming outside commercial banks. In the Niarela neighbourhood, the branch of Ecobank told patrons they could not take out more than 500,000 francs (roughly $1,000).

Keywords: Mali coup

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